What Is a Biplane? Here’s What You Should Know

Not all airplanes are designed with a single pair of wings. Some of them feature two pairs of wings — with one pair stacked on the other pair. Known as biplanes, they’ve been around for over a century. The Wright Brothers, in fact, were responsible for building the first powered biplane. To learn more about biplanes and how they differ from traditional airplanes, keep reading.

Overview of Biplanes

Biplanes are classified as fixed-wing airplanes with two pairs of wings. As shown in the adjacent photo, they don’t feature a single pair of wings. Biplanes have two pairs of wings. On each side of a biplane is a pair of wings. Each side of a biplane essentially has one wing on top of another wing. This design is referred to as a biplane.

Most traditional airplanes, of course, only have a single pair of wings. Known as a monoplane wing design, it’s become the primary wing design used for most commercial and private airplanes. Nonetheless, you can still find biplanes in the skies. Biplanes are smaller airplanes that have two pairs of wings.

Advantages of Biplanes

While they aren’t as common as traditional airplanes with a monoplane wing design, biplanes still offer some unique advantages. They allow for lighter wings, for instance. The wings of a biplane typically weigh less than those of a traditional airplane. This is due to the fact that biplanes have two pairs of wings. Each pair consists of two wings, with one wing being placed over the other wing. The bottom line is that biplanes have lighter wings than their traditional, monoplane counterparts.

Another advantage of biplanes is a smaller wingspan. Wingspan, of course, is the distance from the tip of one wing to the tip of the other wing. Biplanes almost always have a smaller wingspan than traditional airplanes.

Disadvantages of Biplanes

There are disadvantages associated with biplanes as well. Biplanes, for example, produce more drag than traditional airplanes. They have twice as many wings. And while the wings generate lift, drag is more problematic with biplanes because of their unique wing configuration.

Biplanes aren’t as fast as traditional airplanes. They have a lower top speed, which restricts their use for transportation. Traditional airplanes are able to fly faster because they have a single pair of wings. A single pair of wings minimizes their drag, which in turn allows for a higher top speed.

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